While working for the liberal media and moreover watching my conservative counterparts, one thing I observed was that their primary criticism of Islam was the way they treated their women. Rather, most of their attempts at tasteless jokes were focused on the oppression of women who follow the religion.
Interestingly, I observed that my feminist friends have a particular interest in discussing and debating what Muslim women prefer to wear, what they prefer not to wear, what they think of the society (especially on the topic of modesty), their culture, etc. Seemingly, feminists are way too obsessed with the Hijab, most of them debating whether it is a choice or a symbol of oppression.
Thus, in an attempt to find a response to their queries and the debate, I came across this wonderful article on Huffingtonpost by Yasmina Blackburn on Khadija, the first wife of the Prophet of Islam.
I wonder what argument my fellow feminists and others would have after checking the following points about her:
- She was an esteemed and successful businesswoman: Inheriting her father’s skills, Khadija lead a highly successful business of trading furniture, pottery, and silks. That was back during the age of the pagans when women were oppressed and the society was clearly male-dominated and dangerous. Women were treated as objects back then. But that isn’t the main point here. It was that she, being a woman, in a society 1,400 year ago, owned the most successful business in the clan. I would readily sacrifice my online marketing stuff to sit with her on those camels and walk through the deserts to learn how she did it. Her business was larger than all of the Quraysh trades ‘combined.’ Khadija had a reputation of fair-dealing and high-quality goods. And no, her job wasn’t easy or ‘feminine.’ It involved trading goods from Mecca to Syria and to Yemen through the most dangerous trade routes. Women power, you know!
- She was the first person to convert to Islam: The particular reason I chose to discuss the case of Khadija to justify why Islam empowers women is that if I discussed any other random Muslim woman, one could excuse her as an exception. However, being the first Muslim in the world, Khadija is the ideal example to show what Islam intended for women who were to follow the religion. Thus, Muslims rightfully call her the ‘Mother of Islam.’
- She was widowed twice before marrying the Prophet: Ideally, in a patriarchal society a woman who has been widowed twice would be considered a witch or otherwise carrier of bad luck. No man would marry her. She might even be killed. And back then, the pagans did that a lot. But no, she, despite her age and dominance, appealed more to men.
- She turned down many marriage proposals. She ‘chose’ her partners: Reiterating, it was 1,400 years ago. In a brutal male-dominated society a woman nearing menopause appealed to a lot of men. As rich and affluent as they could be, they had little luck convincing her for a marriage. She was choosy about her partners.
- She did not ‘need’ men: Despite proposals for marriage from the best of the eligible bachelors, she never needed a man to complete herself. What should be noted is the fact that she had children from both her ex-husbands. Her marriages were always a want, not a need. This is something most women in first-world countries are unable to achieve till date. Till….
- She proposed the prophet for marriage: I have never seen and I wonder if I would ever see a woman who is bold enough to propose to a man, initiate, and lead the relationship. But this was one exceptional one back then. Khadija was rich and as mentioned, she did not need a husband to support her financially. She indeed ‘hired’ Muhammad into her conglomerate. Back then, marriages were not about love but survival, but this one was unique for its own reasons.
- She was 15 years older than the Prophet: Well, if you are still not convinced of how liberal Islam was, please note that Khadija was 15 years older than Muhammad. He was a 25-year-old young man and she was 40. Nearing menopause as I said. Actually, there was little reason for any man to lust for her, in which case any resultant relationship would be of pure understanding and compatibility.
- She was an ideal wife and theirs was a true love story: “Your wives are a garment for you, and you are a garment for them.” (Qur’an 2:187). Polygamy was historically a common practice and contrary to the general perception, Islam did not promote it. Islam restricted polygamy to four wives. However, the Prophet never married any other women until Khadija’s death 25 years later. Theirs was a true love story since. It was without lust (as mentioned above) and based on mutual understanding. When Muhammad got the message of Islam, no one believed him. It should have been quite frustrating, but it is known that his first wife comforted him, accepted his religion, and helped promote it. They had six children together.
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